Chicago Bears: Wednesday injury report a major concern

On Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Bears released their first injury report in nearly two weeks ahead of Sunday’s home matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. For a team that’s currently in the middle of a four-game losing streak, the Bears’ first injury report of the week wasn’t encouraging, with key starters on both offense and defense being injured.

Heading into a crucial matchup against the Ravens, the following Bears starters are injured: Akiem Hicks (ankle), Khalil Mack (foot), Eddie Jackson (hamstring), Allen Robinson (hamstring), Danny Trevathan (knee), Darnell Mooney (foot), and Alec Ogletree (ankle).

Of the names listed above, only Mooney and Ogletree were limited in practice on Wednesday, while the rest of the names were listed as did not practice. Looking at Hicks, Mack, and Jackson, the Bears’ defense would be short-handed on all three levels. Mack provides a stable presence as a pass rusher and tone-setter, while Jackson has covered up many holes in the Bears secondary throughout 2021.

The injuries to Mooney and Robinson are concerning for the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields. While the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft has continued to develop chemistry with both wide receivers, Mooney’s connection with Fields is more important. As Fields continues to develop, Mooney is currently the only WR slated to be on the roster in 2022, with Robinson set to hit free agency in the upcoming offseason.

Other injuries to monitor include running back Damien Williams (knee), tight end J.P. Holtz (concussion), and kicker Cairo Santos (elbow). While Williams, was limited in practice on Wednesday, Holtz and Santos were full participants. This means it’s more than likely both Santos and Holtz will be ready to go in Sunday’s contest against the Ravens. Chicago could merely be precautionary and choose not to have Williams dress, especially with the emergence of rookie running back Khalil Herbert, who has burst onto the scene in 2021.

The Bears will release two final injury reports on Thursday and Friday ahead of Sunday morning when the inactives list will be announced just over an hour before kickoff.

Chicago Bears: What did the first half of 2021 teach us?

david montgomery, bears

With the Chicago Bears officially on a bye week, the first half of the season has wrapped up and with just eight games remaining, the Bears face an uphill climb to make the playoffs in 2021.

Much has been made of the first half of the Bears season. There have been ups but also downs and while 2021 is all about the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears 2022 offseason is taking shape.

The Bears’ first half has shown us that looking ahead to 2022, much of the roster remains unresolved with impending free agents that include WR Allen Robinson, guard James Daniels, and DE Bilal Nichols. Chicago’s best hope is that Daniels and Nichols market is cheaper than originally expected with Robinson likely on the way out.

While Fields continues to be a bright spot on offense, much like the Bears running game. Chicago’s offensive line has struggled with Center Sam Mustipher being a weak link. When head coach Matt Nagy mentions self-reflection, this should include looking at the offensive line and reshuffling the interior. That means moving veteran Cody Whitehair back to center and inserting Alex Bars into the starting lineup.

As a vertical passing game, Fields improved chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney was on display in week nine. This is a connection that needs more growth with the hope that Mooney and Fields are on the same page by seasons’ end.

Then there’s the defense. Without Khalil Mack for two straight games, Chicago struggled to generate any consistent pass rush while holes in the secondary were visible. Second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson has taken a leap and safety Eddie Jackson remains an asset in coverage but a liability as an open field tackler. Veteran Robert Quinn continues to have a resurgent season but still needs to be consistent during the second half of the season.

The Bears 2021 season has showed that work remains to be done. Fields makes Chicago’s future bright and the Bears have a quarterback. What remains to be seen is whether or not the Bears can build around Fields, using the rest of 2021 as a roster evaluation to build a plan around Fields as soon as 2022 arrives.

Chicago Bears: Chemistry with playmakers was prevalent in week nine

Allen Robinson, New York Giants

A lingering issue for the Chicago Bears since naming rookie quarterback Justin Fields the starter in week four was a lack of chemistry with wide receivers. After spending all of training camp as the Bears backup, Fields was forced to learn on the fly with starting wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet.

Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week nine on Monday Night Football, the Bears opted to run a more balanced gameplan, with Fields going 17-for-29 with 291 yards and one touchdown. The 11th overall pick also had a passer rating of 89.9 while rushing eight times for 45 yards, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt.

“As we’ve gotten more reps with Justin and you know kind of having had him at the helm and things and whatnot, things just naturally been getting better and kind of having a feel for each other,” Kmet said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “Not only me but I think the other receivers as well and you know we’re just kind of getting better in that so I think that’s going to keep progressing as the year goes on.”

Much of Fields’ early-season struggles was the result of poor ball placement and timing with receivers. Fields showed the ability to consistently hit the deep ball on Monday, including a 39-yard pass to Robinson on a third-and-two in the fourth quarter. Just one play later, Fields would connect with Mooney for a 16-yard touchdown pass.

“I felt so awesome Mooney made a great catch on that play, we were on the same page so was it was awesome,” Fields said.

For an offense that’s beginning to find its rhythm, Fields and the rest of the Bears playmakers have proven that everyone being on the same page can help the Bears passing game significantly improve. For head coach Matt Nagy, this is a positive step in the right direction as Nagy hopes to develop a pass-first offense.

Chicago Bears must evolve and adapt with team identity

justin field, bears

The Chicago Bears will be leaving Las Vegas with a big road win and some momentum heading into a Week 6 home matchup against the division-rival Green Bay Packers. Over the last three weeks, we’ve gotten a sense of what the Bears’ identity is as a team: The defense is the backbone while the offense is built on a solid running game.

Chicago’s formula for success has worked so far. Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders was a clear example of how the running game has quickly become a strength of the Bears’ offense. Damien Williams and Khalil Herbert combine for 34 carries, 139 rushing yards, and one touchdown, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

“When the running game is going like this, we can do a lot of things on offense,” quarterback Justin Fields told CBS Sports Evan Washburn after the game. “Hopefully we can keep that going and keep winning games.”

The numbers also reflect that the Bears identity is run first. Chicago controlled the ball for just over 32 minutes on Sunday afternoon, which equates to around 50 percent. As a passer, Fields was 12-for-20 with one touchdown and 111 passing yards. This is the second straight week Chicago has taken a somewhat conservative approach with Fields as a passer.

The Bears will need to open up the offense more, allowing Fields to make plays through the air. With games against explosive offenses such as the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers looming, a solid ariel attack will allow Chicago to keep pace with both teams.

The Bears passing game did have some bright moments in week 5, including a 13-yard pass from Fields to wide receiver Darnell Mooney on 3rd-and-12 with just 7:26 to go in the fourth quarter. Fields fit the ball into a tight window between two Raiders defenders, giving Mooney a chance to make a play.

“That’s just a timing throw,” Fields said after the game. “So we practice that all throughout the week. Just that look, just trying to get a first down, trying to keep the drive going, it was a great catch by Mooney, and a great call.”

Chicago’s identity has been solid so far, however, as the season continues to progress, the Bears will need to adapt to continue winning games, and prevent other teams from figuring out a way of stopping the offense.

Chicago Bears: Week 4 wrap up, quick takeaways, and week 5 preview

justin field, bears

After winning at home in week 4, the Chicago Bears improve to 2-2 on the season with solid performances from rookie quarterback Justin Fields, running back David Montgomery, wide receiver Darnell Mooney, and the Bears defense. Let’s look back at week 4.

1) Head coach Matt Nagy admitted after the game that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was calling plays. Guess what? Lazor calling plays should be part of the Bears gameplan moving forward. The Bears were efficient on offense, running and passing the ball effectively, being a threat to score on every single play.

2) Fields deep ball was a thing of beauty. A quarterback capable of hitting any throw, Fields connected with wide receiver Darnell Mooney for a 32-yard gain down the sideline with just 10:54 remaining in the third quarterback. The two also connected three times on the Bears first drive for 29 yards. Fields excels at hitting the deep ball and the Bears need to get more explosive on offense, so expect to see more of the Fields-Mooney connection as the season progresses.

3) Shoutout to running backs David Montgomery and Damien Williams. The two combined for 31 carries, 161 yards, and three touchdowns. Montgomery did injure his knee and as we await the results of a scheduled MRI, should the 2019 third-round pick end up missing time, the Bears will turn to rookie running back Khalil Herbert to complement Williams.

4) The Robert Quinn revenge tour continues. Despite being 31-years old, Quinn had five tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits. With 4.5 sacks on the season, Quinn has upgraded the Bears pass rush this season, justifying the five-year, $70M contract the Bears dished out to Quinn in free agency during the 2020 offseason.

5) Can we talk about the sneaky good game that inside linebacker Alec Ogletree had? A late training camp addition, Ogletree has quickly emerged as a solid piece for the Bears defense and totaled 12 tackles and one tackle for loss on Sunday. The veteran is making a strong case for keeping the starting ILB job once Danny Trevathan returns.

6) The Bears did struggle on third down, going just 1-for-8. But as Nagy mentioned in his postgame presser, the Bears did avoid multiple third-and-long situations, which should be considered a step in the right direction. Chicago’s offense is still a work in progress and the Bears can’t afford to make many mistakes, so going 1-for-8 is still better than what the Bears have done in the past.

7) Justin Fields needs to get better at protecting the football. His first and only fumble of the afternoon came in the second half but this is the second time at home this season that Fields has lost a fumble. The 11th overall pick lost one against the Cincinnait Bengals in week 2 but recovered it to save the Bears offense.

8) Chicago averaged 6.5 yards per play on Sunday, the most yards per play Chicago has averaged this season and the highest since week 14 of the 2020 season, when the Bears averaged 6.9 yards per play against the Houston Texans at home in a 36-7 win.

9) Fields credited the Bears offensive line on four different occasions during his postgame press conference and Chicago’s front five rightfully earned it. The offensive line allowed just one sack all afternoon, compared to week three, where the entire unit allowed nine sacks.

10) The Bears were better in the redzone too, scoring on three occasions with four total redzone trips. The field gets harder to defend when a defense is back up against the ball and the Bears took advantage with smart playcalling, running the ball every time Chicago converted.

 

What about week five?

Week 5 is sure to be interesting. The Bears will travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders, with this being the second time both team’s have met since 2019. It’s another Khalil Mack revenge game, considering the Raiders got the best of Mack in 2019 during the last matchup in London.

Bears fans like to make fun of Raiders head coach Jon Gruden for trading Mack back in 2018 but Gruden also has the Raiders offense averaging 30.0 points per game. The Bears secondary will be tested in this game. Quarterback Derek Carr has passed for 435, 382, and 386 yards in three games this season.

The Bears will need to account for the Raiders skill position players, including tight end Darren Waller, wide receiver Henry Ruggs, and running back Josh Jacobs, who is listed as questionable for Monday Night Football against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Chicago does enter another must-win game. Win in Las Vegas and Fields, who could start for the third straight week will enter week 6 against the Green Bay Packers at home with a major boost in confidence. The Bears will have a chance to get to 3-2 before having to play Green Bay and then travel to Tampa Bay in week 7 to take on the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.

 

Assessing the Chicago Bears offense in week two

Sunday afternoon proved to be fruitful for Chicago Bears fans. Not only did the Bears come away with a victory but Chicago also got an extended look at rookie quarterback Justin Fields for the first time in the regular season with veteran Andy Dalton leaving the game due to a knee injury.

Fields playing a majority of the game doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter moving forward but the Bears coaching staff now has to make a decision to make: Should the Bears continue to roll with Dalton if healthy or start Fields and bring the future to the present? The final call with be made by head coach Matt Nagy but Fields performance on Sunday while leading the offense could be enough to name the 11th overall pick the starter.

Chicago’s offense showed plenty of positives on Sunday, including the ability to consistently move the ball through the air with a vertical passing game but for every positive, there seemed to be a negative. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney each dropped two touchdown passes that would’ve iced the game by at least two possessions.

Fields’ mobility was apparent throughout the afternoon, as the rookie rushed 10 times for 31 yards, including a 10-yard rush with 2:55 remaining in the fourth quarter to set the Bears up with a first-down to end the game. Chicago did run some RPO looks, ensuring that Cincinnati’s defense would need to account for running back David Montgomery on every play. Montgomery, who rushed 20 times for 61 yards had three receptions for 18 yards, impacting Chicago’s passing attack during a busy afternoon for the third-year running back.

Overall, Chicago’s offense put together a solid enough performance to warrant being able to compete with any opponent. The Bears may not be explosive as Nagy wants to be just yet, something that will come with time but week 2 was encouraging for both the present and future.

 

Chicago Bears: What does week 2 hold for WR Darnell Mooney?

darnell mooney, bears

When the Chicago Bears host the Cincinnati Bengals in week 2, wide receiver Darnell Mooney will be a name to watch as a player who can be a reason the Bears finally get in the win column. Mooney, who totaled five receptions for 26 yards, averaging 5.20 yards per reception. Labeled as a breakout candidate heading into 2021, the Bengals provide Mooney with the perfect opportunity to have a big game, further cementing his status as the Bears WR2.

“They play in your face, man-to-man, a little zone here and there but I mean, they’re not going to hide anything,” Mooney said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “There’s some opportunities out there, for sure, this week.”

Assessing the Cincinnati defense, Mooney will likely be matched up against Chidobe Awuzie throughout the game. Assisting Awuzie will be Safeties Jesse Bates III and Vonn Bell, both of whom will provide extra assistance whenever Mooney is asked to run deep. To fully utilize Mooney’s talent, Bears head coach Matt Nagy also needs to give Mooney the opportunity to make plays by calling plays that will require quarterback Andy Dalton to throw the ball beyond 15 yards, dialing up deep shots to keep Cincinnati’s defense guessing on every single play.

“No pressure at all, I mean I’m just going out there, trying to play my game and win the game,” Mooney said. “Regardless of what numbers are there are expected out of me, I mean, I’m trying to get, I’m trying to get dominant.”

Mooney’s rookie season showed promise to warrant a major breakout season in year two. While his production in week 1 wasn’t necessarily the best, as the Bears prepare for the Bengals, Mooney will have a major opportunity to flip the script, especially with more consistent play from the quarterback position, something that was showcased at times in week 1 for the Bears.

Chicago Bears: Why didn’t the Bears gameplan on offense work?

andy dalton, bears

Just over 48 hours have passed since the Chicago Bears‘ week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and with the Bears now looking ahead to week 2, Chicago must figure out what went wrong against the Rams. On the surface, the Bears’ offensive gameplan included short, quick passes designed to get the ball out of quarterback Andy Dalton’s hands in just under 2.5 seconds.

Throughout the evening, the Bears’ offensive line did create solid running lanes for running back David Montgomery. The real reason the Bears left Los Angeles winless is due to the passing attack. Despite throwing 38 times, Dalton completed just 27 passes, with only one pass of 10+ yards being completed.

“I think just the kind of way this defense plays, they limit the big play and they make you just kind of move the ball down the field,” Dalton said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I mean you see the drives that we scored on, I mean I don’t know how many plays they were but you had to keep finding ways to get first downs and keep moving the ball all the way down the field. You’re not going to get very many explosives against this team.”

Further dissecting the Rams gameplan, limiting big plays means that wide receiver Darnell Mooney’s speed was accounted for by the Rams defense on every play. Wide receiver Allen Robinson was followed by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey on multiple plays, limiting Robinson’s impact.

Essentially, as a result of the Rams deciding to defend the deep passing game, Los Angeles was content with giving the Bears quick, underneath throws because Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris knew that players like cornerback Jalen Ramsey were instinctive enough to breakdown what the Bears would be running.

Moving forward, for Chicago’s gameplans to work, the Bears will need to ensure that playcalls don’t look very predictable. Furthermore, allowing Dalton to hit deep passes via play-action could also go a long way towards opening up the Bears’ offense and maximizing talents fo players such as Mooney and Robinson.

Chicago Bears: How Darnell Mooney has improved this offseason

darnell mooney, bears

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy had nothing but praise for wide receiver Darnell Mooney on Saturday morning prior to the team’s second padded practice of the weekend. After nine starts and 61 receptions as a rookie in 2020, Mooney entered the offseason with massive expectations of taking another major step forward.

With new faces at the quarterback position, consistent wide receiver play is a necessity for the Bears, who feel content about the wide receiver room featuring Mooney and eighth-year veteran Allen Robinson. A year ago, at this exact time, Mooney was an unknown commodity who took advantage of every opportunity, with results translating onto gamedays.

“Mooney right now is on fire with his route running,” said Bears head coach Matt Nagy prior to practice on Saturday morning. “He’s running some routes right now that I really haven’t seen him and A-Rob running those routes.”

More consistent quarterback play should lead to an increase in production who had a standout day on Friday, making a few key catches throughout practice, including a leaping grab over second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

“It’s more routes, he’s putting his own spin and stamp on more routes,” Nagy said. “Last year, he had a couple routes where he was really good at. When we evaluated him last year, we knew in the fifth-round, I’m just telling you, we knew in the fifth round, we were getting a steal.

Mooney’s work ethic has also impressed the coaching staff, something that many have taken notice of. The message coming out of Halas Hall is clear: Mooney just isn’t looking to win matchups with his speed. He’s looking to become a complete wide receiver and make plays in any way possible.

“He’s proven us so far, to be what we thought he was,” Nagy said. “Because he works hard and the other thing is, A-Rob is his mentor. A-Rob’s teaching him a lot of stuff. That’s to his credit for latching onto him and now he’s putting it out there on tape and it’s just it’s fun to see. And he wants to keep growing.”

The Bears returned to Halas Hall for practice on Saturday and will return again on Sunday, giving Mooney an additional two days to continue proving that the former fifth-round pick is ready for a big leap in year two and begin making a name for himself.

31 questions to Bears camp: What will Mooney/Robinson accomplish?

Allen Robinson, New York Giants

After a year of inconsistent quarterback play, Chicago Bears wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson will enter 2021 with Andy Dalton and Justin Fields at the most important position in sports. In 2021, both wide receivers combined for 163 receptions, 1881 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns.

Set to play 2021 on the franchise tag, Robinson has been labeled a “pro” by the Bears coaching staff. Entering his eighth season, Robinson should have another big year, with the goal of securing a long-term contract extension next offseason. Mooney’s speed makes him a major asset in the vertical passing game for the Bears, allowing for wide receivers and tight ends to get open underneath, giving Fields and Dalton quick and easy completions.

Both Robinson and Mooney will hope to make the jump towards becoming one of the NFL’s top wide receiver duos. When Chicago’s offense is clicking at a high level, something that starts with consistently good quarterback play, both wide receivers are capable of catching 100-plus receptions a season, along with 1000-yard seasons.

“To me, I didn’t exceed everything I wanted to accomplish but going into year two, I just want to be more of a threat to the defenders and more of an asset to the team,” Mooney said this offseason via the Bears official YouTube Page.

Robinson accounted for 68 first downs in 2020, being the main reason that Chicago’s sluggish offense was able to move the chains at times while accounting for 319 yards after the catch. In the same categories, Mooney accounted for 33 first downs and 254 yards after the catch. With the Bears adding more speed to the offense this year, production in both categories mentioned should increase, creating additional opportunities for both players.

As the Bears continue to prepare for the 2021 regular season, a year that will be defined by quarterback play, Robinson and Mooney can play a big role in how the Bears’ 2021 season turns out.